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Rate Your Marriage on a 1930’s Quiz

I had a great time last night on KSL Radio’s Nightside Project talking about this fun 1930’s spousal rating scale and how it compares to how couples rate their spouses in 2011.

Listen to part 1 on women’s quiz (go to 37:00)

Listen to part 2 on men’s quiz

(scroll to the middle of the audio segment)

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Why are we getting more anxious and stressed?: KSL Radio

KSL Radio’s The Nightside Project invited me to talk about why Americans are more anxious and stressed than ever and what we can do about it here in Utah.  I had so much fun that I ended up staying for another segment talking about the importance of men expressing vulnerability in relationships and the top movies that make men cry (think sports and animals). Click on link for (second hour) for Thursday, February 3, 2011

Listen to Julie’s Nightside interview on iTunes

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How To Stop Overreacting: Studio 5

Over-reacting is when your emotional response doesn’t match the current relationship situation. There are general types two kinds of overreactions: external and internal. External overreactions are visible responses that others can see. For example lashing out in anger, throwing your hands up and walking away from a situation. Internal overreactions are emotional responses that remain inside of you that others may or may not be aware of. Examples of internal overreactions are replaying over a situation over and over in your head wondering if you said the right thing, or over-analyzing a comment made by a friend or loved one.

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How To Assess Your Child’s Self-esteem: Studio 5

Studio 5 Contributor and Therapist, Julie Hanks, says parents are often surprised to discover their child struggles with self-esteem issues.

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Self-esteem, a popular construct used to describe an individual’s inner experience, has two parts: how you define yourself, and how you evaluate yourself. It’s easier to evaluate your own experience than someone else’s subjective experience, even your own child. Here are some signs of healthy self-esteem, some examples of when you should be concerned about your child’s self-esteem, and how you can help them develop healthy self-esteem.

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How to handle a child’s grocery store tantrum

What parent hasn’t experienced the dreaded scene of their young child screaming at the top of her lungs in a crowded grocery store after you have said “no” to a toy, candy bar, box of cereal, or a _______(you fill in the blank)?

Here are some tips to calm, or avoid altogether, the grocery store meltdown with your toddler or young child:

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Understanding You Emotional Style: Studio 5

Husband, wife, friend, family member – your emotional style is a contributing factor in each and every life relationship. It determines the level and depth of your connection.

Therapist Julie A. Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how to identify your emotional style and understand how it affects your relationships!


Have you ever noticed that you find yourself repeating relationship patterns, even if you don’t particularly like them? Do you find that you tend to feel similar emotions in your close relationships time and time again? We all have a unique style of relating to others that has its roots in our earliest relationship patterns. In our first few years of life our emotional world revolves around our family and parents (or caregivers). While these patterns aren’t set in stone they provide a default pattern for our emotional life and our relationships throughout life. It can be helpful for you to understand your relationship style so you can modify it when it causes distress or it no longer works for you. Identifying your style doesn’t mean that you are blaming your parents for the way you are. It can be helpful to understand your early relationships and how they impact your current emotions and relationship patterns so you can choose to make changes.

Which of the following best describes you?*

1) I want to be closer to others than they want to be. I worry that the people I love will leave me. When I share my true feelings it overwhelms others.

2) Others want to be closer to me than I am comfortable with. I’d rather depend on myself than on others. I prefer to keep my feelings to myself.

3) It’s easy for me to be close to others. I have many people that I can depend on. I can say directly how I feel and what I want in my relationships.

Emotional Styles:

1) Worried

You want close relationships but often feel not good enough, fear abandonment, and feel overwhelmed by your emotions. You have a difficult time saying goodbye or being separated from loved ones.

2) Guarded

You value independence more than close relationships, you have difficulty knowing and sharing your emotions and needs, and you prefer not to rely on others. Others regard you as somewhat distant.

3) Confident

You can easily develop emotionally close relationships, you feel deserving of love, and you recognize that saying “goodbye” is a natural part of relationships. You can express your emotions and needs directly in your relationships.

How to Develop a More CONFIDENT Relationship Style:

Worried

• Seek solitude
• Practice self-soothing
• Take emotional ‘step back’
• Seek consistent relationships
• Express feelings & needs

Guarded

• Seek connections
• Practice self-awareness
• Take emotional risks
• Seek nurturing relationships
• Express feelings & needs

References:

Quiz adapted from Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.

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Tips For Talking To Teens

Sometimes it feels like trying to talk to your teenage son or daughter is like hiking through the wilderness…you never know when you are going to trip over a tree root or hit your shin against a rock. Here are some helpful tools to use as you begin your hike through the adolescent years!

How to Maintain Communication

Even though teens need to separate from their parents during adolescence, they also need to know that the safety net of home and family is always there for them. If the lines of communication are shut down, they are not yet capable of surviving emotionally; they need support and input. Let?s take a look at a few guidelines for keeping the lines of communication open between parents and teenagers.

1. Pay attention to the small things along with the significant things. If you are generally a good listener, your teen will be more likely to talk to you.

2. When your teen talks to you, pay attention. Don’t be doing something else.

3. If you can’t pay attention right at the moment, explain why. Ask if you can talk about the issue later, at a specific time.

4. Ask questions for clarification, but watch out for coming across as critical. If your teen sees your questions as disapproval, stop asking them.

5. Expect your teen to change his mind frequently. Avoid commenting on the inconsistencies.

6. Express interest and encouragement in your teen’s activities.

7. Accept your teen’s opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.

8. When you talk with your teens and they tell you something that you feel angry or concerned about, refrain from acting out immediately. Set a time to come back to this topic when you are both calm and can really have a conversation about your concerns.

By following these guidelines, you will have a map even when the terrain is difficult or you think it must be impossible to get through the forest (i.e. grouchy, grumpy, hormonal teens!)

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Bridging The Gap – Tips For Sibling Rivalry

It is human nature to feel competitive and envious toward others. A moderate spirit of competition is a positive and productive attribute in school and in business. Sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up in families. The competition between siblings starts when the second child is born. Unfortunately, many parents ignore it and some even make the situation worse.

When occasional fighting becomes a constant series of arguments and fights, it must be dealt with to avoid years of discord and even potential danger. Here are some tips that will help you lessen your frustration over argumentative brothers and sisters and help them learn to get along better:

  1. Do your best to offer each of your children equal amounts of praise and attention. This is true if they are competing for your attention or if they are participating in a school or sports activity.
  2. Encourage your children to participate in activities that they truly enjoy. Don’t expect them to always join activities that they must do together or where they will be competing against each other.
  3. Children sometimes perceive that their parents favor one child over the others. While some parents do prefer one child to the others, it is usually not a conscious choice. If your child tells you that you favor his or her sibling, pay attention to your behavior; maybe there is some truth to it. However, if you know you are being fair or if there is a valid reason for treating one child differently, stand firm. Sometimes children use the “favorite child” complaint as a way to make you feel guilty and give them what they want.
  4. Sometimes one child is more cooperative or better behaved than another. It’s normal to compare siblings, but it?s generally better not to talk about it. Comparing two kids doesn?t help improve their behavior; instead, it intensifies the sense of envy and jealousy. A more constructive strategy is to limit your comments to the problem behavior. Always avoid telling one child that his or her sibling does something better.
  5. Make it a rule that family members may become involved in incidents between siblings only if they actually saw what happened. This keeps people from being manipulated.
  6. Realize that younger children can be the aggressors. Don’t automatically rush to their defense.
  7. If two kids are fighting over a toy, take it away. This discourages them from arguing over who can play with what
  8. When two kids are fighting, make them share a chair and look at each other in a mirror. With all the goofy faces they make in the mirror the disagreement is soon forgotten and they are laughing like best friends.
  9. If the kids continue the fight after a few minutes in the chair, assign them a chore to do. The excess energy they are directing toward each other is soon put to better use setting the table or picking up the toys.
  10. Use the Active Listening technique to allow siblings to express their feelings. When kids fight, parents often try to talk children out of their feelings by saying things like ?Stop arguing with Tony, Sarah. You know you love your brother.? Instead, you could acknowledge the child’s feelings by saying, “Sounds like you’re pretty upset with Tony.” You might be surprised to see that this defuses the emotion and enables Tony to move on to something else.
  11. When you give things to children, base your choices on their individual needs and interests. If you try to avoid arguments by giving equal gifts to each child, they will inevitably find something about them that is unfair.
  12. When your children are in an argument, avoid taking sides. If you can, encourage them to work out their differences. It is almost impossible to try to determine who started a fight. Even if you know who started the argument, taking sides only makes things worse. If your children learn that you will not enter their minor disagreements, they will have to learn to settle things between themselves.
  13. Take a parent education instructor course. As you educate yourself about parenting, you will change some of your attitudes toward your children and learn new ways to interact with them. You can have the kind of family you want if you are willing to work at it, make some changes in your own behavior, and be patient for things to improve.

You may think that rivalry will stop magically if only you learn to do the right thing. However, learning new behaviors takes a lot of time and persistence.

It is important to address the issues of sibling rivalry when children are young, because it can intensify and persist as children become adults. It is important not to give up when you feel frustrated. Things may even seem like they are worse before they start to improve. Because of your efforts and persistence, your children will learn how to get along better. That will prepare them to have productive relationships in the future. As with all hopes and dreams of parents, helping to create healthy, happy, children and future adults is the number one priority. Teaching children these skills now will go a long way in this journey.

If you need additional help with your parenting skills contact me here

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Top 10 Extended Family Holiday Survival Skills

Wasatch Family Therapyby Julie Hanks, LCSW

Listen to Podcast

1-Manage your own stress

Examine your own expectations and let go of some things so you’ll be your best version of yourself and able to manage family conflict calmly.

2-Don’t try to please everyone

It’s not your job to make everyone happy and meet their expectations of you. Remember “no one died from disappointment!”

3-Schedule down time

Especially if you have family coming to stay with you during the holidays make sure to carve out time for you and for your marriage. Build self-care into the schedule so you don’t get too overwhelmed.

4-Start with your own family then move outward

Ask yourself, your spouse, and your children how THEY want to spend their time, and make that top priority.

5-Just because you’ve always done it doesn’t mean you have to continue to do it

Traditions are meant to create meaning and promote bonding, not bondage. Choose to skip out on some of the expected things. That’s the beauty of being an adult — you get to choose what you want to do.

6-Set expectations ahead of time

If you know that in the past there have been conflicts, address it ahead of time. Where will family be staying? If you’re hosting a party what are your expectations of others?

7-No on can “guilt trip” you without consent

When you’re approached by a family member about an event you’re not attending or why you didn’t spend as much money as someone spent on you, don’t take the bait!

8-Answer those awkward questions with confidence

You’ve go to love those questions like  “So your husband’s still unemployed?” or “So you finally decided to come to OUR Christmas party this year?” answer directly and with confidence.

9-Assume other’s best intentions

With so many expectations swirling, too much sugar, and not enough sleep, it’s easy to get offended if a sister in law forgot to give you a gift, or if your uncle makes an off-handed comment about your parenting skills. Assume the BEST instead of the worst case scenario for their motive.

10-Listen to others graciously and do what you want to do

While it’s nice if everyone’s expectations are met, it’s unlikely. Empathize with your extended family’s disappointment that you couldn’t make their party or you chose to opt out of a certain tradition, and then continue with your holiday plans.

Merry Christmas and take good care of You and Yours!
Listen to Julie Hanks, LCSW weekly podcast show You and Yours on the Women’s Information Network

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What John Wayne Left Out

Generations of American men have learned from “The Duke” that in order to beat the bad guy and rescue the damsel in distress, you have to be tough, brave and work hard. That’s all fine and dandy. Most men don’t have a problem with those things. We can work hard, act tough and sweep a woman off her feet. What most of us struggle with, however, is what to do next. Unfortunately, this is where John Wayne’s movies end. John Wayne doesn’t show us how to be happily married or provide a stable livelihood. We never saw John Wayne struggle with marital difficulties, much less manage a 30-year fixed mortgage, career changes, fatherhood, church service, etc. I guess those plot lines don’t make for good westerns.

With June being National Men’s Health Month, I want to focus on improving men’s emotional health by filling in one of the gaps left by John Wayne. Specifically, I’d like to address what men want in their marriage and give three suggestions on how we can attain it.

What men want in relationships is to love and be loved. Research shows men are happiest and healthiest when in a loving relationship. In fact, men in loving relationships live longer and are less likely to experience heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety or chronic pain than men not in loving relationships.

I doubt if there are any surprises here. After all, John Wayne risked arm and leg to win the affection of the woman he loved. What men struggle with is how to maintain a loving relationship once it’s started. This is where manly toughness ceases to help and instead hinders. Listed below are a few suggestions to help men get what they want out of their marriages.

1. It’s Not All about Sex

Our culture teaches men to express emotional needs physically. Boys are often teased when they attempt to say how they feel, especially when they convey a sense of vulnerability (e.g., fear, sadness or distress). On the other hand, boys are praised for acting out their aggression on a football field or holding in their emotions through statements such as, “Way to suck it up!” or “You are tough!”

When married, men are naturally inclined to use sex as a means to feel close and express love. I often hear men say to their spouse, “If you really cared about me, you would want to meet my needs.” My suggestion to men is based on the belief that love and closeness are built upon open and honest expression of emotion, especially those emotions that leave you feeling vulnerable. I know! What if you are not feeling anything? If that’s the case, then say that. Talk about how you want to feel closer to your spouse and the trouble you have expressing your emotions. Try it. On your next free evening, sit down together and open up without an expectation for sex. It may surprise you how good it feels.

2) No More Mind Games

Don’t expect your spouse to read your mind. Did you know your face can produce over 20,000 expressions? These thousands of facial expressions can then coincide or contradict the many subtle messages you send through your body language. How in the world, then, can your spouse know what you are thinking by just looking at you?

To avoid all the confusion, I recommend you share your thoughts and feelings with your spouse. As you do, remember to avoid saying “you”, as it can sound like you are blaming your spouse for how you feel. Instead, say something like, “I feel _____ when _____ because _____.” Saying “I” helps you take responsibility for what you think and feel. Again, you will be surprised by how good it feels to share your internal experiences and not have to wait for others to guess it.

3) Praise Your Spouse

Research finds that most men only have one close friend, their spouse. As a result, most of our emotional needs are placed upon our marriage. Also, men are exposed to countless messages from the media telling them their spouses are supposed to be passionate, sexual and emotionally fulfilling. Taken together, men are sometimes too quick to blame their spouse for any unhappiness.

I recommend making a conscious effort to praise your spouse. Tell her how lovely she is; compliment her hair or outfit; mention how much you appreciate everything she does for you. I suspect that once you start looking for things to compliment, you’ll be surprised by how many things you like about your spouse.

The take home message here is that your spouse isn’t perfect. Trust me, she knows that already. But, neither are you. You both are trying the best you can with what you have. It’s just that you will be a much happier husband if you focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have. After all, happiness often isn’t found through focusing on your self. It most often comes from the sustained emotional investment in other people.

Focus on becoming a better person and partner and ask your spouse for help with this…

Todd Dunn

Dr. Todd Dunn

Dr. Todd Dunn is a Licensed Psychologist at Wasatch Family Therapy specializing in men’s mental health and relationships. To schedule a session with Dr. Dunn call 801.944.4555 or visit wasatchfamilytherapy.com.

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